LEXINGTON, Ohio (Sept. 26, 2004) – The final eight Champions were crowned Sunday at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs® Presented by Kohler at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. For the third-straight day, the weather was beautiful for a large crowd of spectators at the scenic 2.258-mile circuit.
A recap of the day’s action:
Race 17, Showroom Stock C: Joel Lipperini, of Pittston, Pa., was awarded his second National Championship Sunday, inheriting the Showroom Stock C class win at the 2004 National Championship Runoffs® Presented by Kohler at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after provisional winner Jim Daniels, of Germantown, Tenn., was penalized one position for a racing incident that resulted in early leader Ryan Ciechanski spinning off. Roger Schorer, of Zanesville, Ohio, was third.
Driving the No. 81 Hankook Tires Honda Civic, Lipperini, who started third, crossed the finish line second behind Daniels. Starting fourth, Daniels got a good jump at the green flag to move into third. After running in tight formation for several laps, he passed Schroer to move into second position. On lap 18, Daniels had caught Ciechanski, and went side-by-side into the Keyhole turn. Making contact, leader Ryan Ciechanski spun off-course, while Daniels took the lead. Daniels was later penalized one position for the contact.
It was Lipperini’s second SSC National Championship. His first came in 2002. It also marked the first-ever win for Hankook Tires.
"I had a bad start. I went backwards at the green flag,” said Lipperini after the race. “Then I just had to put my head down and drive qualifying laps for the rest of the race. I got up to Roger [Schroer] and was stuck behind him for a couple laps. Then I got a clean pass on him, and he was a real gentleman about it. Then Jim [Daniels] and Ryan [Ciechanski] had their "issue" and I was second. My strategy was just to get clear and to keep out of trouble."
John Fernandez, of Rochester, Mich., finished fourth, and Ciechanski, of Sterling Heights, Mich., completed the top five.
Race 18, C Sports Racing: Tony Loniewski, of Michigan City, Ind., captured his first-career National Championship Sunday, winning the C Sports Racing class race at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs® Presented by Kohler at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Canadian Jacek Mucha and John Hill, of Seattle, Wash., completed the top three.
Starting from the pole in his No. 34 Loyning Engine Service Swift Viking, Loniewski led at the start, but conceded the lead to second qualifier Jacek Mucha, of Canada, for laps three through seven. Loniewski re-passed Mucha for the lead and never looked back as Mucha’s car began to run poorly. Loniewski beat Mucha to the checkered flag by an event-high 33.29 seconds, averaging 97.146 mph for the 20, lap, 45.16-mile race.
En route to victory, Loniewski also set a new record for fastest race lap of 1:20.386 (101.122 mph).
"I spent some time looking for a place where I was stronger than Jacek [Mucha] so that I could make a pass,” said 20-year old Loniewski. “When the time came, I was able to make my move. I just grabbed a lower gear and got out of the corner quicker. I think [the race] went great!”
Chad McQueen, of Malibu, Calif., and Eric Vassian, of Atlanta, Ga., completed the top five.
Race 19, Formula Vee: Jeff Loughead, of Darien, Ill., captured his first National Championship Sunday, taking the Formula Vee class win at the 2004 SCCA National Championship Runoffs® Presented by Kohler at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Brad Stout, of Webster Groves, Mo., and Stevan Davis, of Powder Springs, Ga., completed the top three.
Driving the No. 8 Hoosier Tire/LL Loughead DDS Vortech 04C, Loughead led twice en route to his first SCCA Runoffs win. In typical Formula Vee fashion, the largest field at the SCCA Runoffs went four wide at the start, with Stout holding the lead. On lap three, a full-course yellow was displayed for two cars off-course in the “China Beach” gravel trap. When racing resumed on lap five, several cars battled for the lead. Running nose-to-tail the lead group swapped the top spot virtual ever lap. Just past the midway point of the 20-lap race, polesitter Stout was able to take the lead hold the position for several laps. On the penultimate lap, Loughead took over the lead entering the esses. Benefiting from Stout and Davis battling for position on the final lap, Loughead pulled out a small lead. Driving as smooth as he could, Loughead crossed the finish line winning by 0.576-second with an average speed of 71.549 mph.
“The race was all about the draft,” said Loughead, who proposed to his wife at his previous career best finish of second in 1995. “These cars don't have the horsepower to be able to pull away so one has to take the time to plan moves. During the race I was hoping to get into a three or four car group breakaway. I wanted to run about second or third and then make my move at the end of the race. Then we came into the end of the straight and I decided to stay to the inside. Brad [Stout] and Steve [Davis] went outside and I was able to get through into first. So there I was leading the last lap. The opportunity was there and I had to take it.”
Roger Siebenaler, of Williston, Vt., finished fourth, and Skip Streets, of San Clemente, Calif., completed the top five. All five drivers in the top five are now National Champions.
Race 20, GT-1: Lew Larimer, of Hayward, Calif., captured his first-career National Championship Sunday, dominating the GT-1 class race at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs® Presented by Kohler at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Defending Champion Cliff Ebben, of Appleton, Wis., and Scott Murphy, of Thomasville, N.C., completed the top three.
Starting from the pole with a new qualifying record in the No. 47 American Port Weld/Red Line/Goodyear Oldsmobile Cutlass, Larimer took the lead at the start and never looked back, taking a 23.14-second win, averaging 92.444 mph.
Behind him, Ebben and Murphy each benefited from a late-race incident between Tom Sloe, of Newbury, Ohio, and Trevor Hopwood, of Lee, N.H., which caused both cars to spin.
"I thought that the car was good so I just went and ran for it,” Larimer said. “I didn't expect to win by that much. We went fast because we were ready to run fast. I backed off a little bit three of four laps from the end and hoped that nothing would go wrong with the car. This is my third Runoffs; I ran at Road Atlanta in 1980 then took a few years off, came back to finish second last year, and here I am this year."
Sloe and Hopwood recovered to complete the top five.
Race 21, Formula Ford: Scott Rarick, of Santa Monica, Calif., captured his first National Championship Sunday, taking the Formula Ford class win at the 2004 SCCA National Championship Runoffs® Presented by Kohler at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Chuck Brewer, of Northbrook, Ill., and Chris Winkler, of Royal Oak, Mich., completed the top three.
Driving the No. 34 Goodyear/Ivey/Hertlfender Rust Swift DB6, Rarick led five laps to win his SCCA Runoffs race. Getting a clean start, polesitter Justin Pritchard immediately began to pull away from the field. With the lead duo of Pritchard and Rarick establishing a sizeable lead, the full-course caution was displayed for six cars off course around the track. When racing resumed on lap eight, Pritchard once again got a great jump on Rarick and was not challenged for position. Running unchallenged, Pritchard spun in the carousel on lap 16, allowing Rarick to take the lead and ending his bid to become the first-ever three-time consecutive Champion in Formula Ford. With second and third place battling for position, Rarick cruised to the victory, winning by 4.139 seconds and an average speed of 73.620 mph.
“I'll take the win any way I can,” said Rarick. “I would have liked to have raced Justin [Pritchard] to the finish, but he went off and I was first. I had a long term plan for the race and for saving my tires but then he went off. So all I had to do from then was to stay focused and stay on course.”
Pritchard, of Granville, Ohio, finished fourth, and Stan Townes, of Santa Clara, Calif., completed the top five.
Race 22, Spec Racer Ford: Mike Davies, of Houston, Texas, captured his seventh National Championship Sunday, taking the Spec Racer Ford class win at the 2004 SCCA National Championship Runoffs® Presented by Kohler at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. John Black, of Olympic Valley, Calif., and T.J. Acker, of Aqua Dulce, Calif., completed the top three.
Driving the No. 83 Logix Communications Spec Racer Ford, Davies captured his first National Championship since 1995, when won the Shelby Can-Am class. Going three wide into the first corner of the race, Davies got past front-row starter Richard Spicer to move into second. After pressuring polesitter Joseph Colasacco on the opening lap, Davies took the lead on lap two. Racing in close formation, he held off-several challenges from Colasacco until lap 12, when he relinquished the lead for one lap, before regaining the top spot. On the penultimate lap, Colasacco got a good run on Davies entering the Keyhole. Looking to the inside, Colasacco spun under braking into the gravel trap, ending his race. With a sizeable gap on Black in second place, Davies led the final two laps, to win by 5.128 seconds with an average speed of 79.910 mph.
“Our cars were equally matched,” said Davies, who captured his first National Championship in the Spec Racer Ford class. “I was stronger in turns eight through eleven while Joe [Colasacco] had me on the run up to the keyhole. I think that both our rear tires were used up because when we went into the keyhole together he started sliding around. There was no contact. He must have locked up his rears. I looked in my mirrors and saw him off the road. I said to myself, 'I'm so sorry! '”
Spicer, of Laurel, Md., finished fourth, and Lee Fleming, of Lake Forest, Calif., completed the top five.
Race 23, G Production: Mark Dennis, of Rochester, N.Y., captured his first-career National Championship Sunday, dominating the G Production class race at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs® Presented by Kohler at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course while his competition beat on one another behind. Mark McAllister, of Webster, N.Y., and Bill Wessel, of Madison, Wis., completed the top three.
Starting alongside polesitter and two-time defending Champion Kent Prather, Dennis took the lead at the start in his No. 80 Nissan/Goodyear/CDA Machining Nissan 510. From there, he clicked off fast lap after fast lap to speed away to a 24.67-second win, averaging 78.097 mph.
"This is what my brother [Kevin] and I have been working for,” said Dennis. “He was second in this car last year and I was second in it the year before. We've been trying hard to win and there are a lot of hours in the garage in this. I'm glad I could run a clean race. It was great that I could get in front and stay out of trouble. Kent [Prather] is a very good driver and I knew that if he got ahead it would have been a lot of trouble to get back in front. The key was to get into the lead at the start. Every lap that I came around I saw cars all over the place so it was essential to stay clean."
Behind Dennis, the battles were fierce for the remainder of the top 10, with several contenders coming together and ending their runs. On lap five, while battling for third, Prather and Andy Deatherage, of Cleveland, Ohio, came together in turn one, damaging both cars enough to remove them from contention. Working lap 17, the battle for second was tight, when Chuck Mathis, of St. Jacob, Ill., and Jeff Winter, of Arvada, Colo., came together, again in turn one, resulting in heavy damage to both cars.
That promoted Wessel to second, but he spun one lap later to promote McAllister, who started ninth, to the silver medal.
Chris Albin, of Maryland Heights, Mo., and Paul Stoltze, of Dripping Springs, Texas, completed the top five.
Race 24, GT-4: Michael Mazziotti, of Wexford, Pa., captured his first National Championship Sunday, taking the GT-4 class win at the 2004 SCCA National Championship Runoffs® Presented by Kohler at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Joe Kristensen, of London, Ont., and Kirk Olsen, of Lakewood, Colo., completed the top three.
Driving the No. 56 Jackson Welding Supply Honda CRX, Mazziotti led 18 of the 20 laps, to win the final GT-4 National Championship. Starting on pole, Wilson Wright Jr. maintained the lead at the start of the final race of the 2004 SCCA Runoffs. Running unchallenged at the front of the field, Wright Jr. pulled off course on lap three with a mechanical failure, allowing Mazziotti to take the lead. Consistently driving smooth fast laps, Mazziotti led the remainder of the race for a Honda CRX sweep of the podium. At the checkered flag, Mazziotti won by 7.908 seconds with an average speed of 81.880 mph.
“Willie [Wilson Wright Jr.] banged out quick lap in qualifying pretty easily,” said Mazziotti. “We knew we had something for him if we stayed close. Unfortunate for him, but good for me he had a problem in the race.”
Keith Grant, of Germantown, Tenn., finished fourth, and Lans Stout, of Cornelius, Ore., completed the top five.
Awards: Accompanying the on-track action were the presentation of two major SCCA Club Racing Awards, the President’s Cup and the Road Racing Driver’s Club (RRDC) Mark Donohue Award.
Formula Vee National Champion Jeffrey Loughead, of Darien, Ill., was awarded the President’s Cup, presented to the driver that the Stewards of the Meeting and the Chief Steward believe best demonstrates ability, competitiveness and success at the National Championship event.
F Production Champion John Saurino, of Tulsa, Okla., was presented with the RRDC Mark Donohue Award for the driver demonstrating outstanding performance and sportsmanship.
Previous Results Note: Jonathan Dick, of Columbus, Ohio, was awarded his second-consecutive Formula 500 SCCA National Championship after Douglas Marsh, of Eastlake, Ohio, was disqualified for technical issues. Aaron Ellis, of Indianapolis, Ind., and Jason Morales, of Hundington Station, N.Y., completed the top three.